The Anglican Communion’s ponderously named faith and order group released a report yesterday on its meeting earlier this month in Korea. It has me wondering whether Rowan Williams and proponents of the proposed Anglican Covenant understand that they are urging this document upon us in a way that validates all of our worst fears about the document itself.
Many of us who oppose the covenant do so because its fourth section invests disciplinary authority in the Standing Commission of the Anglican Communion, a body that is accountable only in the most attenuated sort of way to members of the churches that constitute the communion.
One feels both gratified and alarmed, then, to learn that at is meetings last week, IASCUFO (the InterAnglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order) recognized the importance of “being a fully representative group” and “re-affirm[ed] the significance of the Anglican Communion Covenant for strengthening our common life.” Gratified, because, well, it is nice to have your opponents make your points for you. Alarmed because the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office continue to behave as though the more centralized church they hope to create already exists.
Whatever its claims, IASCUFO is in no way representative. Its members are not elected to represent their provinces, but are cherry-picked by the communion office to ensure the outcome that the Archbishop of Canterbury desires, while creating the illusion of consultation. (In this way it is similar to the Covenant Design team and the Windsor Continuation Group.) Of the 19 individuals named in the release, no more than three hail from churches that have adopted the covenant. (Precise numbers are hard to come by, as many churches don’t actually care enough about the covenant to have made a public statement indicating their attitude toward it.) Yet the group asserts its representative nature, and then affirms what the churches its members allegedly represent have not: that the covenant is essential in strengthening our common life.
IASCUFO employs collegial rhetoric, but it behaves like a pressure group. What sets it apart from other pressure groups is that it uses financial resources contributed by member churches to lobby on behalf of a covenant that many of those churches will not sign—a covenant that would assure that essential decisions in the communion would continue to be made by purportedly representative bodies that are in no way accountable to the communion’s member churches.